Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Grandpa Knudt and Grandma Mina

Hi Folks, Lena here - but then you already knew that, didn't you.

A few days ago I wrote an entry about how my Mom and Dad met. I made a reference to my Grandfather (Dad's father) and how he homesteaded in North Dakota and I promised you more interesting and titillating details (yeah, sure). Those old Norwegians were so stoic I don't know if they ever did anything interesting or titillating (snicker) But now the Finns - that's another story. You know that Ole is Finnish and he's got an extremely interesting and titillating past. But that's a story for another day, okay?

Anyway, Grandpa Knudt (could you get more Norwegian than Knudt?) immigrated to America with his parents and most of his brothers and sisters (7 immigrated) when he was 16. When he was 24 he put a claim on some property and lived on it for six years with a couple of his buddies that needed a place to spend the winter.

Below is a picture of that homestead shack - one door, one window, dirt floor, no insulation of any kind, just bare boards over 2x4's. It was 10x10 - not very big. Imagine the wind and snow blowing in between the cracks in the winter when it's 40 below!!

The shack stood until just a few years ago. It was leaning so far by that time that a healthy breeze (like we get here in the Midwest) blew it over and then the scraps were burned.

The land that Grandpa Knudt homesteaded had initially been claimed by a family named Brown, but they unknowingly settled on the wrong land. They had intended to be one section over, but miscalculated somehow. The Browns had built and lived in a sod house. Unfortunately, Mr. Brown died during the summer that they were planning to move to the correct property. Grandpa Knudt put up a tent on the property to start his claim and lived in that for the summer. But winter came, Mrs. Brown was still living in the sod house and Knudt needed somewhere to live through the winter because a tent just wouldn't make it. So he moved in with friends on the next homestead - Ole and Nels Olson.

The men could see the sod house of Mrs. Brown from their shack and watched all winter to make sure there was smoke coming from the chimney. After a bad blizzard, they didn't see any smoke and decided they better check on Mrs. Brown. They snowshoed over to where the sod house was and found it completely covered with snow. They found Mrs. Brown outside where she had frozen to death attempting to care for her livestock.

After the homestead shack was built (picture above) Grandpa Knudt lived in it, along with his brother, Gilbert, and a friend named Johnny Aason.

After the homestead claim was completed Grandpa Knudt built a bigger house and a grainery. Eventually he built the big barn that I showed you in the previous entry. That's the house pictured below.

Grandpa Knudt eventually found the girl of his dreams, named Mina (pronounced Meena) in 1903. She was at home with her parents on her wedding day waiting for Grandpa Knudt to pick her up in the buggy and take her to town for the wedding. Apparently he didn't get there when she expected him and she started crying, thinking that he had backed out of the wedding. But he finally arrived - late like a good Norwegian. After the ceremony, they was to be a reception at the Ole Oftedahl (another good Norwegian name) home. Between the parsonage and the reception someone found a full bottle of whiskey on the ground, so that was brought to the reception and everyone partied. Remember, it doesn't take much alcohol for a bunch of stoic old Norskies to loosen up.

Below are pictures of Grandpa Knudt and Grandma Mina on their wedding day.

They had six children. The first birth was a set of twin boys that died at birth. They were followed by three boys and one girl. Mina died at the age of 52 from cardiac complications from an affliction known as St. Vitus Dance, which she acquired as a child.

I never knew Grandma Mina, and very vaguely remember going to Grandpa Knudt's funeral. We were living in South Dakota at the time and it was winter. My father was notified of his father's death and we immediately packed the car, a 1953 Hudson, piled in and took off on a 350 mile trip. I remember it being very dark out, nighttime I suppose, and driving through a very heavy snowstorm. I so vividly remember the huge flakes flying at the windshield and it being very difficult to see. I will never forget as we got within just a few miles of our destination out of the ditch came a white horse and ran in front of the car. I remember being thrown into the dash as my father slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the horse. It was obviously someone's horse who had gotten out of the pasture or barn, was confused and running with the storm.

Have I bored you enough yet? or do you want to hear more.


harrietv said...

I want to hear more, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. (You know me as l'empress.)

Anonymous said...

Me, too! I want more. I love these stories, living history. :-) Mel

Shear said...

I love these stories too!

Meggie Lou said...

Isn't that wonderful? To have such memories. I laughed when I read about how your father tried not to hit a white horse in a "blizzard" and you got thrown into the windshield. No seat belts back then. My sister and I used to jump back and forth in between the bench seats in our station wagon. Loved your post today.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely want to hear more! I'm so jealous of all the pictures you have to document your life and family's. Inspires me to take more pictures so my boys will have them when they are older and telling stories from their past.

Jo said...

that was me....anonymous above.

Anonymous said...

Cool... or Cold.. I love your stories! Don't stop